By Mark Long
AP Sports Writer
JACKSONVILLE – Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. called his latest arrest “just a bump in the road,” insisting he’s mature and vowing to prove he’s a role model.
Speaking publicly for the first time since being arrested in his hometown of St. Petersburg last week, the former Florida Gator apologized Wednesday to the organization and the city for his actions that led to misdemeanor charges of simple battery and mischief.
“I just want to let people know and everybody know that’s not me as a person,” Fowler said as the Jaguars reported for training camp. “I’m a better person than that, and it won’t happen again.”
The 22-year-old Fowler was arrested July 18 by St. Petersburg Police and later released on a $650 bond.
According to the arrest report, a man walking in an apartment complex made a comment about his driving. Fowler got out of his car, exchanged words with the man, then “hit the man, knocked his glasses off and stepped on them,” according to the report. Fowler then “took the victim’s grocery bag, with recently purchased liquor, and threw it in a lake,” the report said. The victim was not injured.
“At the end of the day, it could have went down a totally different way,” Fowler said. “I could have took the right approach. I took the wrong approach, and I realize that I’m wrong for that. Like I said, it won’t happen again.”
Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said any discipline for Fowler will remain private.
“Any time something like that happens, no matter who it is, you’re disappointed from an organizational standpoint and obviously I think individually,” Marrone said.
“For me, it’s a little bit bigger than that. I believe that we represent something even more so than the organization. We represent a sport, a league, so I think whenever those things happen, no matter who it may be, I think that it’s concerning.”
The Jaguars selected Fowler with the third overall pick in the 2015 draft and gave him a four-year, fully guaranteed deal worth $23.5 million days after Fowler tore a knee ligament during the opening hour of a rookie minicamp.
He missed his entire rookie season following surgery and was the opening day starter in 2016, but he ended up getting benched in favor of rookie Yannick Ngakoue. Fowler finished with four sacks and 32 tackles last season.
He had more trouble off the field, too.
Fowler was arrested at Miami Beach in March 2016 and charged with misdemeanor counts of assault against a police officer and resisting arrest without violence. Those charges were dropped in December after he completed a pretrial intervention program for first-time offenders.
That arrest came a little more than two weeks after a video surfaced showing Fowler apparently refereeing a violent fight between his girlfriend and an ex-girlfriend.
He also has a long list of traffic violations, including four speeding tickets in Jacksonville over the past two years. The most expensive was a $450 citation in June 2016 in which he pleaded no contest to driving 98 mph in a 55 mph zone. He was stopped in nearby Alachua County in March 2016 and cited for doing 99 in a 70 zone.
Most recently, Fowler was cited for careless driving in June after he caused $1,500 in property damage. The citation shows Fowler backed into a parked vehicle, and he was also cited for operating a vehicle without insurance.
“I don’t think I have a maturity issue,” Fowler said. “It’s just some things, just learning and growing. … People are going to push me to that point. I just have to be the bigger person and realize who I am and do that. Maturity is not a problem. I’m actually growing a lot, especially with this new structure and everything like that.
“Starting to carve me into the person I want to be, the professional I want to be. It’s just a bump in the road that I have to get over and put past me and show you guys, show the organization, show the city, that I’m a role model and I want to go in the route and not go in another bad one.”